Local Cheerleader Heads to London to Cheer in New Year's Day Par - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Local Cheerleader Heads to London to Cheer in New Year's Day Parade

ROCKFORD, Wash. -- Inside cheer practice at Freeman High School, in the small town of Rockford, you'll find Shelby Nelson leading her squad.

"It's good, I love it," Nelson said through smiles. "It's something that I really want to do. I just love it. I'm like a cheer robot. I live cheer."

Nelson is varsity captain, a role that happened, sort of, by accident.

"I never would have guessed that," she said. "Cheerleader? No.".

Before she pumped up Freeman's sports teams, Nelson was a passionate softball player. But about a year ago, she suffered a calf injury, sideling her softball career.

"Softball was like my sport and it was a little devastating," she said.

On a whim, Nelson and her best friend tried out for the Freeman High School cheer squad.

"I tried out with cast and all," Nelson said.

"Shelby definitely went above and beyond all of our expectations," Freeman Head Cheerleading Coach Wylie Rhoads said. "It's pretty rare to have girls like that that come in and be able to pick up so much so quickly."

Despite the cast, Nelson made the cut. "In a roundabout way, I'm kind of glad that it happened because I never would have discovered my passion for cheer leading," Nelson continued.

This year, it was a passion that pushed her to the highest stakes yet: a chance to cheer for the United States in London's New Year's Day Parade.

But right before try outs, Nelson's mom, Barb Gady, suffered a startling blow. "I was diagnosed with a brain tumor," Gady said. "It was just out of the blue, a shocking situation, so it was a real scary time for our family."

Nelson and her family immediately switched gears, supporting mom at home. Shelby admits, she was "kind of a wreck."

"You don't want to over-dramatize, but it's a life changing moment," Gady said.

During that time, Nelson said, she almost gave up her chance to cheer in London to stay with her mom.

But coach Wylie had other plans and encouraged her to try out.

Rhoads said, "It's a miracle that she has been able to hold everything together and just be able to be the daughter, and the student and the cheerleader that she is."

Before dozens of other cheerleaders around the area, and with London on the line, Nelson made the cut. She was the only cheerleader in the state of Washington to be selected to go.

Nelson said, "I heard my name and at first I was like 'oh that's me.' And then all the girls started screaming. It was like one of those moments. So when it happened, I was like 'this is good, this is finally something good."

One of the first phone calls Nelson made was to her mom, who didn't even realize her daughter had tried out for chance to cheer in London.

Gady said, "There's the things that you do and then there's the person that you are, and I'm proud of the things that she does but I am proud of the person that she is."

Shelby Nelson, the cheerleader by chance, who was always rallying for everyone else, now has everyone else in Freeman rallying for her.

"I'm thankful for what has happened in my life just because I know it's made me who I am," Nelson said.

Nelson's mom has since had a successful surgery for the brain tumor and now says she feels healthy. Nelson says she now dreams of cheering at the collegiate level, hopefully at Eastern Washington University.

Nelson leaves the day after Christmas and will return January 2, 2012. To follow Shelby on her trip to London, and the rest of the Freeman High School Cheerleaders, "like" their Facebook page at "Freeman Varsity Cheerleaders."

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